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Keywords:

  • Pediatric rheumatology;
  • Physician workforce;
  • Access to care

Abstract

Objective

To describe rheumatology providers, depict their availability, and determine the extent to which internist rheumatologists may expand access to care for children with rheumatic diseases.

Methods

Using data from the American College of Rheumatology and the Bureau of Health Professions Area Resource File, we generated a national map of providers' practice locations and calculated distances between each county and the nearest rheumatologist. We also performed a logit analysis to identify provider and county characteristics that were associated with internist rheumatologists' willingness to treat children.

Results

Approximately 50% of the under 18 population in the United States live within 50 miles of a pediatric rheumatologist and nearly 90% live within 50 miles of a pediatric rheumatologist or an internist rheumatologist who treats children. Internist rheumatologists in private practice were 3 times as likely as those in medical schools to treat children (P < 0.001). Likewise, internist rheumatologists who live 200 or more miles from a pediatric rheumatologist were more than twice as likely to treat children as those who lived within 10 miles of a pediatric rheumatologist (P < 0.001).

Conclusions

Our analysis suggests that internist rheumatologists are more geographically diffuse than pediatric rheumatologists and act as substitutes for pediatric rheumatologists in those regions that lack such providers. Research is needed to understand the role of internist rheumatologists in caring for children with rheumatic diseases and the quality of the care that they provide to this population.